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Human rights defenders, journalists need protection: UN expert

UN Special Rapporteur Margaret Sekaggya [official website] on Monday outlined the risks and challenges faced by human rights journalists and media workers [press release], and called for additional protection of those workers. The report [text] indicated that, "journalists and media workers active on human rights issues were subject to killings, attacks, disappearance, abduction, torture and ill-treatment." The report called on state and non-state actors to recognize the objective role played by these observers, and to offer them proper protection from unwarranted criminal prosecution. In a statement to the UN Human Rights Council, Sekaggya said:

Journalists, environmental, student and youth rights defenders and those working on land issues are in significant need of protection. ... Most of these risks directly affect their physical integrity and that of their family members, but also involve the abusive use of legal frameworks against them and the criminalization of their work.
The report also recognized the need to protect those active on human rights issues who are not formally recognized as journalists and media workers, but "should include other relevant actors, such as community media workers, bloggers and those monitoring demonstrations."

Protection of human rights remains a central concern for the UN, with rights activists across the globe being subject to violence and arrest. In October, Sekaggya released a report [JURIST report] indicating that human rights defenders were still being harassed, attacked and killed more than a decade after the international declaration adopted for their protection. In August Chinese authorities in Beijing began the trial [JURIST report] of Wang Lihong, one of the dozens of human rights activists the government detained earlier this year as part of a crackdown on dissidents in the country. Nobel Peace Prize winner and human rights activist Liu Xiaobo [BBC profile; JURIST news archive] remains imprisoned in China despite international calls for his release. In July a coalition of human rights organizations issued a joint statement urging the Russian government to investigate the murder [JURIST report] of rights activist Natalia Estemirova [BBC obituary; JURIST news archive]. Estemirova, who was kidnapped in Grozny in July 2009 and shot to death, reported regularly on human rights abuses committed by the Chechen government, including extrajudicial killings, torture and enforced disappearances. In June Zimbabwean human rights activist Farai Maguwu was arrested for allegedly supplying false information about Zimbabwe's controversial diamond mining practices to the international diamond control body the Kimberley Process [advocacy website].

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Paper Chase is JURIST's real-time legal news service, powered by a team of 30 law student reporters and editors led by law professor Bernard Hibbitts at the University of Pittsburgh School of Law. As an educational service, Paper Chase is dedicated to presenting important legal news and materials rapidly, objectively and intelligibly in an accessible format.

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